18 December 2015

More on Donations to Ministry Debtors

A week ago I posted a link to the online "Gleanings" section of Christianity Today. That article and my post, here, provided answers from a variety of folks to the question, "Should Christians Give Money to Ministries Deep in Debt?"

Yet that was only one of the questions reporter Morgan Lee posed. Since none of the others made it in her public report, I thought my readers might want to see them as well as my answers.
1.   Should Christians support ministries that are insolvent? Insolvency has two meanings: either a negative balance sheet (liabilities > assets) or a negative cash flow (expenses > income). The first is a yellow light but the second is a red one. I suspect many Christian organizations barely have a positive net worth and indeed don’t need to. Yet, they must be able to pay their bills.
2.   To what extent does the socio-economic level of the Christian donor matter? The poor are often less financially sophisticated than the wealthy but that is not always the case. In general, I believe church/denomination-run or approved ministries are good because a church or denomination should have better resources to evaluate the overall effectiveness  of a ministry than most individual Christians.
3.   What’s the relevance of the nature, size, or scope of the ministry? The nature of the ministry is crucial: is it consistent with the call of God on his people? Or is it a means of personal aggrandizement? Size and scope follow from the nature and place of the ministry and do not in themselves make a ministry worthwhile.
4.   To what extent do race and culture effect Christians’ answers to these questions? I don’t know but would interested to find out.
5.   To what extent are the reasons for a ministry’s financial problems relevant? The reason(s) for a ministry’s problems are very important. E.g., are they due to a one-off disaster or an honest error in judgment? Or are they caused by long-standing mismanagement? Even more important is the ministry’s response: is it denial and cover-up or is it straightforward and pro-active?
6.   At what point should a donor pull the plug? Lack of integrity, unethical conduct, and corruption are good and sufficient reasons not to give to a ministry. Legal troubles may reflect any of these fundamental problems but could also be caused by external forces/opposition over which the ministry has no control. Indeed, under certain conditions abroad, legal trouble could signal that the ministry is doing its job under difficult circumstances. Standing alone, a market-based approach to support of Christian ministries is inconsistent with the call to sacrificial obedience. Yet Christians are called to be stewards of the gifts, including assets, God has given them so ministry effectiveness is a legitimate concern.

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